WHILE the fall-out from the most contentious US presidential election in living memory still reverberates, 4,000 miles away – or approximately 6,500 kilometers for the metric-minded – an eerily similar scenario is hatching.  
   Because, when France goes to the polls to select a new leader on April 23, the nation of haute couture, snooty superiority and whiffy cheese is likely to face a dark choice between two highly divisive candidates, the only certainty being both want to steer the country hard Right.
   National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has – to use police parlance – a rap sheet for fomenting Islamophobia as long as the Champs Elysee. And, though she’s sanitized her party of much of the rabid anti-Semitism associated with her neo-fascist father, Jean-Marie, slick PR can’t disguise the NF remaining a bastion of white supremacists.
   Nor can it gloss over all traces of Jew hatred in the ranks when one of Le Pen Junior’s closest confidantes – some say her best buddy – is Frederic Chatillon, an ardent Hezbollah fan and Holocaust denier, who operates the pro-Assad news website, Inforsyrie.
   Nonetheless, in times when political soothsaying is less reliable than medieval alchemy, it’s pretty much a given Le Pen will reach the presidential election finale, where she’ll face Republican Francois Fillon, a conservative secularist, with – like her – hard-line views on Islam and immigration.
   Fillon, favorite for the top job, also stands accused of insulting France’s 600,000-strong Jewish population by saying recently, “We fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.”
   This quote, claim his backers, was a reference to the Napoleonic era, which begs the question: why bring it up now?
   Not that this was the first time the former prime minister has taken a swipe at Jews.
   In a 2012 TV interview he insisted “minorities” needed to abandon “ancestral traditions”, like ritual slaughter, and “to adapt in the modern world” of science. 
   French Jewry, then, faces a devil’s bargain whichever way it votes, though a majority say they’ll reluctantly opt for Fillon, marginally the lesser of two extremes.
   But neither candidate is likely to change France’s long-time animus towards Israel, though this could harden further under Le Pen, who supports Iran’s nuclear intrigues and – in a veiled threat to the Jewish state – says any attack on the Islamic utopia would be a “violation of international law.”
   For the woman who spends most of her days castigating Muslims, it’s a remarkable volte face for her to defend the world’s worst purveyor of international terrorism.
   France, however, is hardly worth a blip on Israel’s radar.
   Jerusalem’s preoccupation is far more centered on whether Barack Obama stages a Security Council coup by somehow backing Palestinian statehood in the fading days of a failed presidency.
   This might be a gambit Donald Trump can’t undo when president, even if the already flip-flopping, Commander-in-Chief elect can be relied on to deliver his vow to be “Israel’s best friend…ever!”
   Indeed, these are uncertain times for Jews throughout the West and good reason for the Netanyahu government to tilt its focus more towards Asia and Africa, where regimes ostensibly hostile are proving to be covert allies.
   Meanwhile, as Britain has shown with its vote to Brexit the EU, Europe has become a cauldron of anti-globalization discontent, where the peasants are revolting and showing every indication their fury is very much unspent.
   To Brits, the perennial awkward squad, this was simply a reprise of their historical inclination to rebel against oppression, a phenomenon dating back to the original Peasants’ Revolt of 1318, when – fed up with a diet rich in mangelwurzels – the hoi-polloi mutinied against an autocratic king (for the record they lost).
   However, today’s insurrections aren’t the handiwork of hungry laborers wielding makeshift pikestaffs, but plebs nonetheless, weary of being governed by the unelected and unaccountable of the European Union, who’ve seriously misread the mood of the masses like latter-day Marie Antoinettes.   
   Which is why Italy is a ticking time-bomb as it approaches this Sunday referendum on constitutional reform.
   A seemingly arcane topic to outsiders, it’s provoked such an outpouring of national rage the result could see center-Left, pro-EU premier, Matteo Renzi, humbled by Beppe Grillo, a professional comedian and founder of the Right-wing, anti-Brussels, Five Star movement, which wants to ditch the euro and reintroduce the old lire.
   Sunday also sees the Austrian presidential election re-run, after a legal challenge overturned the original result, and it could catapult far-Right candidate, Norbert Hofer, into an office that’s largely ceremonial, but of huge political significance.
   Next in the general election diary is the Netherlands on March 15, when populist Geert Wilders – arguably Israel’s greatest fan in Europe – is heavily tipped to widen support for his anti-Islam Freedom Party’s ticket, which includes holding a ‘Nexit’ plebiscite aimed at Holland following Britain out of the EU.
   In short, the West is witnessing a defenestration of the quasi-liberal elites via the ballot box – a peasants’ revolts by any other name, as vast swathes of the populace reject mainstream, center-Left politics in favor of a massive leap of faith into the shadow-land of untested, post-millennium populism.
   So far it’s resulted in an orange tycoon-cum-political greenhorn being elected next US president and it could see a neo-fascist leading France and a clown in charge of Italy.
   But, even if Le Pen and Grillo fail where Trump succeeded, they nonetheless represent a damning indictment of America and Europe’s establishments.
   Small wonder a once-eminent, now former UK lawmaker was moved to say, “The trouble with democracy is the voters – you simply can’t trust the b*****ds.”
   Israel, then, is wise to turn its gaze away from the West, because there’s no telling where it’s going.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share